Fifty computers were this afternoon installed in an inner-city San Francisco school by Oracle Corporation as part of its nation-wide program to end "digital apartheid."
Oracle senior vice president, Marc Benioff, told a gathering of delegates at the State of the World Forum at the city's Fairmont Hotel this morning (Oct 29) that the donation of computers to the George Mascone Elementary School was part of a promise to install 5,000 computers in 100 disadvantaged schools around the United States by the end of the year, at a cost of $100 million.
Mr. Benioff, who took part in a discussion on "digital apartheid", said the technological age "is well upon us and digital apartheid is a serious issue, when it comes to the difference between those who have access and those that haven't."
The term "digital apartheid", new to many, was explained by panelist Halsy Minor, who is the chairman and chief executive of Net Corporation. "Digital apartheid is when the guy next to you has two computers and a cell phone the size of a peanut, and you have a pencil and paper."
Mr. Benioff said "digital apartheid" was not about those who have the technology and those who don't, like those who do or don't have a television or a refrigerator. "The truth is that this is about those who can and those who cannot [use computers] in the new age. It is a question of empowerment. The harsh reality this century is if you don't have access to PCs and the internet, you cannot participate in commerce, education, entertainment, and communication."
Mr. Benioff said the main problem facing the age is whether it can be equal across all races. He said schools with high percentages of non-white, especially Hispanic, students had far fewer computers, particularly at the elementary school level.
He said what should help is that the price of computers was predicted to drop to between $200 and $500 by the year 2001. Mr Benioff said when the forum started in 1995, computers cost about $2500, from around a thousand dollars now.
State of the World Forum president Jim Garrison pointed to the increasing availability of technology by saying that when the Forum started, less than ten percent of delegates were contactable by e-mail, but this year he communicated with 95% of them via the internet.